SA is in danger of becoming caught in a stale, polarised debate between the state and the free market when it should be focusing on how to transform society by emulating the experiences of successful nations. In 1940, the Scandinavian countries had the same economic conditions as Nigeria. In 1965, on gaining independence from Britain, Singapore was worse off than Zimbabwe was at independence. The tiny island nation was battling opium addiction, widespread poverty and unemployment, and was riven with ethnic cleavages. A relentless focus on education and meticulous planning enabled Singapore to take its diverse population out of poverty to the frontier of the knowledge economy in a single generation (1965-2000). A lack of natural resources forced the city-state to focus on educating its people — people who were "hard-working, thrifty, eager to learn" in the words of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s first prime minister. "Singapore taught me that you start with the workers you have (not the...

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